Gordon Hayward has crisscrossed the country as an NBA player for years, and after playing for budding title contenders in Utah and Boston, he now finds himself as the leader of an upstart young Hornets team. The star of the Charlotte show this season has in large part been No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball, who continues to dazzle even as the Hornets staff brings him along slowly off the bench.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick this week, Hayward was asked if he’s enjoyed Ball’s game and playing with the young rookie so far. Hayward replied that he can already tell Ball has a long, promising career ahead of him thanks to his knack for always being around the ball and their general basketball awareness.
Here’s Hayward’s full answer:
Yeah, I think LaMelo is going to be really good in this league for a lot of years. He’s got great size. More than anything, he has great feel for the game. He’s kind of like — to me, he’s got that same type of feel as like (Dallas’) Luka (Doncic), as (Washington’s) Russ (Westbrook), where they just are around the ball and the ball kind of just comes to them. With rebounds and (being able) to make the right plays and always kind of being at that right position, to me he has that same type of feel and energy for the game. I think he’s gonna be really good.
So far, Ball is averaging just under 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists per night in 25 minutes, shooting 40 percent from the field. The Hornets are hanging around the Eastern Conference playoff picture at 6-8 and are a nightly thrill to watch.
Ball still hasn’t started a game, but it’s telling that a teammate like Hayward is comfortable playing with him and believes in him, a sign that perhaps in the not-too-distant future, Charlotte may flip Ball to the starting lineup and begin to let him spread his wings even more.